So, I actually met Jeff last weekend at Noir at the Bar in Hoover, AL and he read this short story for the audience (you can hear it on my latest podcast episode here). After chatting with him a bit after the event, I asked if I could share it here with you guys and he emphatically said “Sure, that’d be great!”. So, without further ado…
“Clicking the Heart” by Jeff Strand
Charles didn’t like to judge people based on their personal appearance. So though the man was ugly, sweaty, and had a jagged scar on his cheek, Charles chose to judge him based on the fact that he was holding a gun.
“May I help you?” asked Charles. He didn’t usually answer the door when people pounded on it after midnight. He wished he’d stuck to that tonight.
“Sure,” said the ugly guy. “I’m Bryan. I’m a hit man.”
Charles tried to slam the door in his face, but Bryan pushed his way into the living room. Charles lunged at the coffee table, intending to grab an oversized, never-read book with which to bash the assassin in the face. Bryan was faster. A moment later Charles found himself lying on the floor, whimpering and clutching his freshly punched chin.
“I was hired by Ms. Regina Anderson,” Bryan told him. “I’m sure that name is familiar.”
Charles frowned. “Ummmm…kind of. I’ve never met her in person. I think we’re Facebook friends.”
“You two are indeed Facebook friends. You’ve been Facebook friends for almost a year. So now you understand why I’m here.”
“No,” said Charles. “Not at all. We’ve never exchanged private messages. I don’t know where she lives. She hardly ever even shows up on my timeline!”
“But she showed up yesterday, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, I think so, I guess. Her cat died.”
“Exactly! At 2:32 PM Eastern Standard Time yesterday, Regina Anderson posted that her cat Fluffyfur crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. She was looking for compassion and support in her time of mourning. But you clicked the heart icon! You clicked that you loved the fact that Fluffyfur was dead! Have you no soul?”
“No, no, no, no, no! I clicked the heart to show that I was thinking about her and her loss! Her post said nice things about the cat and she posted a picture of him. That’s what the heart was for!”
“That’s not how she interpreted it. She thought you loved her new catless existence.”
Charles frantically shook his head. “She had it all wrong. It was an expression of sympathy!”
Bryan took a piece of paper out of his pocket. “Well, unfortunately, it’s too late to cancel this work order.”
“Please, this is all a mistake! Don’t kill me!”
“I’m not here to kill you. I’m here to kill your pets.”
“She paid me to come here and kill every pet in your home.”
“But I don’t have any pets,” said Charles.
“None. My lease doesn’t allow me to have them.”
“Not even a goldfish?”
“I’ve always found goldfish to be kind of boring. So, just tell Regina that it was all one big misunderstanding, and that I don’t have any pets anyway.”
“Sorry. I forfeit my fee if I don’t kill your pet. So we have to move to Plan B.” He took out his cell phone and tapped on the screen a few times.
“Surely she’ll understand what I really meant,” said Charles. “It’s not like I clicked on the laughing face icon.”
There was a knock on the door. “Come in!” said Bryan.
The door opened, revealing an adult male in a tight-fitting dog suit that covered everything except his face. He stepped inside.
“This is Fido. Fido is what they call a ‘furry.’ Now, not all furries get sexual pleasure out of dressing in their animal suits, but Fido sure does. Your leg is in great danger.”
Charles just stared, mouth agape.
“Fido is now your pet,” said Bryan. “A gift from me to you.”
Fido bounced over to Charles and panted happily.
“I don’t want him,” said Charles.
“Tough. He’s yours.”
Then Bryan placed the barrel of the gun against Fido’s head and pulled the trigger. Fur and brains sprayed everywhere. Fido fell to the floor.
“Not gonna lie,” said Bryan. “That was way more messed up in real life than when I rehearsed it in my mind. Anyway, my job here is done. Now clean up after your pet.”
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